SAASS Resumes Field Practicum with Staff Ride to Greece

  • Published
  • By Mark Jacobsen

This September SAASS resumed its annual Staff Ride after a cancellation the previous year due to COVID-19. SAASS Class XXXI traveled to Greece for a deep immersion in Mediterranean military history. 

The Staff Ride is an important part of the SAASS student experience, and typically falls within SAASS 627: Airpower in the Age of Total War.

Twelve days of readings and seminars immersed the class in World War I, interwar, and World War II military history, with a special focus on the Mediterranean Campaign. In addition, each student conducted extensive additional research to support student-led presentations in-country. Each presentation took the form of a "stand", in which the student roleplayed a historical figure at a site significant to that figure's life. SAASS faculty have polished this formula over the years to create a powerful experience that brings history to life.

This year's trip began in Athens and included visits to the Acropolis and Pnyx Hill, where stands included a reenactment of the debate between Alcibiades and Nicias about launching the Sicilian Expedition. Other highlights in mainland Greece included visits to the "Hot Gates" at Thermopylae, the Hellenic Air Force Museum at Tatoi airport, the Gorgopotamos Bridge (location of a daring World War II demolition mission), and the Hotel Grand Bretagne, where students listened to stands representing Hitler and Mussolini.

After three days in and around Athens, the class traveled to Crete for a deep dive into Operation Mercury. Students visited major battle sites across the island where Allied defenders battled German paratroopers before ultimately withdrawing. They also visited both Allied and German cemeteries that honor the fallen. Other stands covered the Cretan resistance movement, the kidnapping of German General Kriepe, the role of women, and the role of journalists. 

Previous SAASS Staff Rides have taken students to Western Europe and Vietnam. Students describe these trips as offering them a depth of immersion in an operational campaign unlike anything they have ever experienced.